Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The World Is Full Of Strangers

I'm trying to educate Lola about "strangers." What a slippery slope! I had picked her up from daycare and after a drink and yogurt, wanted to play pirate outside. She had drawn an elaborate map in school and wanted to continue her game outside. She's wanting her independence more and more. "Mom, just let me play outside by myself, I promise I'll stay on the sidewalk." "Mom, can I ride my scooter to school, you can stay home with Gibby, I'll be fine!" "Mom, let me use the potty by myself, no one will bother me!"

I told her she could play in the side yard along the driveway, so I could keep an eye on her. Gibby was taking a late nap, and I grabbed a few Gourmet magazines and sat on the side porch. She was pretending the driveway was her ship and she was the captain. She had her foam sword and pirate hat from Halloween a year ago and was screaming "Ahoy, man overboard!"

A young man walked by with a black and white speckled Greyhound and smiled in amusement at Lola's play. "Hey can I pet your dog?" she asked. She ran over so quickly, the force knocking her pirate hat off. "Lola, stop!" She knows the rules about strange dogs, ask the owner if you can pet, then ask where the dog likes to be pet, don't make initial eye contact with the dog, let the dog then be the first to sniff you.....

It's strangers that frighten me more than a rabid, drooling dog. "Mommy, who was he?" "Honey, that's a stranger, remember, someone you don't know..." "But he smiled at me mom?" He's a stranger because I don't know him either. I've seen him walk his dog for several months now, he waves hello as his dog urinates on the telephone pole at the end of my driveway. "It doesn't matter if he smiles, he's still a stranger, and you have to be careful." "But what if I ask him if he's going to be nice to me?" This is where I begin to hear the words tumbling out of my mouth, not making sense. "It's like the witch in Snow White, she tricks her with that apple. She dresses like an old beggar woman and gives her the apple, it's a trick!" "But, mom, he didn't have an apple. He just had his dog and a poop bag."

By then our neighbor Bunny pulled in next door. She waved hello and Lola ran over to see her. She told Bunny she was playing pirate and we saw a stranger walking his dog. Bunny told her to be careful of strangers too. What message am I hoping Lola learns from this? I don't want her to be afraid of the world, the people in it, I only want her safe and sound and to play in her carefree child world for as long as she can.

I asked her later tonight if she understood what I was trying to teach her about strangers. "They are people we don't know, who smile at me, and maybe will try and trick me. But I know to yell and run away. Sometimes mom, you just confuse me."

1 comment:

  1. Hi Michelle,
    When Atticus was a toddler, I read a book called "Protecting the Gift". Have you heard of it? It really helped me- I keep meaning to read it again. I know what you mean- this is such a tricky balance!